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Basic startup package advice requested

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#1 kdsnet

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Posted 15 November 2019 - 05:51 PM

Greetings everyone. I currently have a Meade 395 (90mm/1000mm) that I got years ago at a sale for like $20. The mount is not in good condition and the finderscope recently broke. But overall, I had some fun with it observing Saturn, Jupiter, and the moon. I have a homemade solar filter that I have used for various solar events including the recent transit of mercury. I have taken some photos with just my cellphone through the eye piece, but this piqued my interest in AP.

 

I would really like to start doing some AP. I am not sure what my total startup budget is right now, but I think around 2000-3000 USD. My latest master’s degree is in electrical engineering with a concentration in signal processing. The AP process from the equipment, control and automation, to processing intrigues me.

 

My plan is to start with a sub 1000 USD scope. I have been reading lots of forums and think I have it narrowed down to one of the three Amazon options
- Sky-Watcher ProED 120mm Doublet APO Refractor Telescope
- Sky-Watcher ProED 80mm Doublet APO Refractor Telescope
- Explore Scientific Carbon Fiber 80mm f/6 APO Triplet
I like the price of the Sky-Watchers but the Explore Scientific triplet seems to be liked as well. The decision will come down to price. I figured the scope is something I can also upgrade a few years down the road and the Sky-Watchers comes with a viewfinder, diagonal, and two eye pieces. Sometimes you can find the SW ED120 used for around 1000 USD, so that’s the only way it made the list. Is there any reason (other than money) that I would be better off with the SW ED80 over the 120mm scope?

 

The mount is where I think I am having the most difficulty figuring out. I am looking at two Sky-Watcher mounts, the EQM35 and the EQ6-R. The EQM35 is cheap and should track the 80mm scopes well. However, I think the EQ6-R will track any of the above scope even better plus will allow me to grow in the future. My gut feeling right now it to buy once cry once with the EQ6-. I don’t mind spending money in the future to get a new scope that will give me a different capability. However, I don’t want to have to buy and learn a new mount in a few years just because I went too cheap at the beginning. If I plan to never spend more than 4000 USD on a scope, will the EQ6-R work for me now and into the future?

 

As for the DSLR, I am planning to start with the Canon EOS REBEL T7i. Its has a 24.2 Megapixel CMOS (APS-C) sensor, shoots 60 FPS Full HD, and had a flip out screen. I don’t want to spend too much on the camera, because I know by the time I am ready to take it to the next level, 500 dollars will buy a whole lot more than it does now.

 

Last advice I need right now is regarding an autoguiding camera and scope. Will the 8x50 RA viewfinder on the Sky-Watcher work with an autoguider to just get started and learn the process?
I would like to attempt to image DSOs, but would also like to image solar events, planets, and the moon. I know all these items do best with specific optics, but I just want to be able to dabble in different aspects and see where the hobby takes me.

Any guidance for this newbie is appreciated.


Edited by kdsnet, 15 November 2019 - 05:51 PM.


#2 Astrodymium

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Posted 15 November 2019 - 06:03 PM

Get the EQ6-R over the EQM35. The EQM35 does not leave you with much room for upgrades.

 

Why does your scope have to be one from Amazon? Purchase from a vendor like high point scientific where you'll have a lot more choices of scopes to pick from, and you'll get proper customer service. The 120ED is not something I would get for imaging, especially as a beginner, since for the same price you could buy a quality imaging newtonian instead. For astrophotography a bigger telescope is not necessarily better. The focal length of the 120ED means you won't be able to fit a lot of beginner targets like M31 and M42 in your frame.

 

Also, with your budget you should get a triplet if you can, since even with well corrected doublets there will be a tiny amount of chromatic aberration present.

 

I haven't used this telescope, but from the specs it's an extremely good deal:

 

https://www.teleskop...ig-sensors.html

 

  • The focuser can rotate, which none of the telescopes you listed have the ability of doing so.
  • It is a quadruplet design, which means it is a triplet that has a built in field flattener.
  • Reasonably fast focal ratio (f/6.3)
  • Sub $1000 USD.

Edited by Astrodymium, 15 November 2019 - 06:14 PM.


#3 photoracer18

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Posted 15 November 2019 - 06:09 PM

If you have never done AP always start with some kind of 80mm ED refractor. They are much more forgiving when trying to learn AP than something larger, heavier, and with a much longer focal length. When doing AP you want to spend at least 2x what the scope costs on a mount. I recommend the EQ6-R or something of similar capacity.

As for a camera most people who continue in AP start out with a DSLR but end up going to a dedicated astro-camera sometime down the road. You can pick up something on the used market like an astro-modified Canon Rebel T3i-T5i (18MP) along with extra batteries, possibly an AC power adapter, and maybe an intervalometer (shutter control device) for something in the range of $350. It will produce much better DSO images than a stock unmodified DSLR.

No unless you modify the finder a lot it can't do both very easily. Its actually easier to make a guider into a finder than the other way around. you need a lot more back focus for a guider than most finders are capable of. Plus its not recommended to try and use the finder rings to guide. They don't hold their settings very well as most finder rings are 2 screws, a spring loaded pin, and a rubber O-ring when what you need is 2 triple screw rings.



#4 PirateMike

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Posted 15 November 2019 - 06:21 PM

Get the EQ6-R. It is a fine mount and allows you to grow to somewhat bigger scopes. It will last you years I assume.

 

For a scope it is always better to get as short a fl as possible when starting out. I would say that an 80mm is max, smaller is better. Takahashi makes a really nice 60mm and 76mm scopes, the quality of the glass is top of the line. Williams Optics also make some short telescopes that appear to be quite good and I have heard a lot of good things said about their Red Cat scopes. Also Astronomics has some nice and inexpensive short scopes.

 

My advice is to go with a short scope and learn the basics much quicker and be happier with your images sooner.

 

Buy a used camera to save some money for later.

 

 

Miguel   8-)

 

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Edited by PirateMike, 15 November 2019 - 06:23 PM.


#5 kdsnet

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Posted 15 November 2019 - 06:47 PM

All good advice. Yes, I should buy from a vendor as opposed to Amazon. Its just that when I was reading the forums, some of the recommended scopes came up on Amazon and that just convenient. I was looking at the https://www.astronom...-refractor.html. However, I really liked that the Sky-Watcher came with all the accessories to do visual out of the box, but only available as a package on astronomics. Takahashi will be considered when I'm ready to take it to the next level :).

 

Message received regarding the 80mm or smaller. Thank you everyone for confirming my suspicion. 

 

Thank you for the advice on the astroguider. Guiders don't seem to be very expensive so it would better to go that route than trying to make finder work. Plus, this is something I can always buy later and will not need to get started. 

 

I did plan on modifying the T7i. 

 

I do have some more research to do now, but at least I know I am not getting by super cheap on the mount. 



#6 PirateMike

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Posted 15 November 2019 - 07:00 PM

Don't forget about a flattener/reducer for your scope. They can cost $200-$300. The one for the SW80 scope cost $249. I just picked up mine today. smile.gif

 

And a decent LP filter, And a guide scope, and a guide camera, and rings and dovetail for the guide scope, cables, power supplies, bla bla bla bla bla....

 

There is a lot of little things you will need. Buy a good mount (EQ6-R) and be cheap on all the other stuff, you will need the money.

 

 

Miguel   8-)

 

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#7 Stelios

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Posted 15 November 2019 - 07:39 PM

Answers inline.

<snip>

 

My plan is to start with a sub 1000 USD scope. I have been reading lots of forums and think I have it narrowed down to one of the three Amazon options
- Sky-Watcher ProED 120mm Doublet APO Refractor Telescope
- Sky-Watcher ProED 80mm Doublet APO Refractor Telescope
- Explore Scientific Carbon Fiber 80mm f/6 APO Triplet
I like the price of the Sky-Watchers but the Explore Scientific triplet seems to be liked as well. The decision will come down to price. I figured the scope is something I can also upgrade a few years down the road and the Sky-Watchers comes with a viewfinder, diagonal, and two eye pieces. Sometimes you can find the SW ED120 used for around 1000 USD, so that’s the only way it made the list. Is there any reason (other than money) that I would be better off with the SW ED80 over the 120mm scope? Yes, the reason is that the 80mm will have a larger FOV and will be easier to guide (and track better if unguided too). There are pros and cons to both scopes, but there's always a place for a short F/L scope because there are lots of lovely big objects and galaxy groups. I would only consider the ES F/6 Triplet, or better still, the equivalent Astro-Tech with better focuser and rings. The diagonal and EP's are of zero use to astrophotography, I don't even pack them any more.

 

The mount is where I think I am having the most difficulty figuring out. I am looking at two Sky-Watcher mounts, the EQM35 and the EQ6-R. The EQM35 is cheap and should track the 80mm scopes well. However, I think the EQ6-R will track any of the above scope even better plus will allow me to grow in the future. My gut feeling right now it to buy once cry once with the EQ6-. I don’t mind spending money in the future to get a new scope that will give me a different capability. However, I don’t want to have to buy and learn a new mount in a few years just because I went too cheap at the beginning. If I plan to never spend more than 4000 USD on a scope, will the EQ6-R work for me now and into the future? Forget the EQM35, it's a toy. And the answer to your question re scopes is *NO*. There are many $4K scopes that require larger mounts than the EQ6-R. If you want to future proof that way, stretch into an iOptron CEM-60 for the mount. That said, I think the EQ6R-Pro is an excellent mount provided the weight doesn't daunt you (it's HEAVY) and will carry up to 130mm refractor, 6" Newt or 8" Edge HD without any problems (Note: that's for AP, for visual it will carry much more). 

 

As for the DSLR, I am planning to start with the Canon EOS REBEL T7i. Its has a 24.2 Megapixel CMOS (APS-C) sensor, shoots 60 FPS Full HD, and had a flip out screen. I don’t want to spend too much on the camera, because I know by the time I am ready to take it to the next level, 500 dollars will buy a whole lot more than it does now.  The flip out screen and 5c is worth a nickel, and megapixels are irrelevant for AP. You only need a camera body. Although the T7i is not a bad camera, I would recommend the Nikon D5300 over the Canon because of its very low dark current noise (something you'll appreciate in processing). 

 

Last advice I need right now is regarding an autoguiding camera and scope. Will the 8x50 RA viewfinder on the Sky-Watcher work with an autoguider to just get started and learn the process?
I would like to attempt to image DSOs, but would also like to image solar events, planets, and the moon. I know all these items do best with specific optics, but I just want to be able to dabble in different aspects and see where the hobby takes me. For an autoguider look no further than the $79 Orion 50mm scope and ZWO ASI120MM-mini camera. For imaging the planets you will need quite a different scope, unfortunately. Planets call for long focal lengths, and DSO's the opposite. I would get a used Celestron C8 and a barlow to image planets (you don't need to guide it, and you don't need flat field). However, this scope will be poor as a DSO scope for a beginner, and would require the F/6.3 reducer in any case.

 

 


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#8 kdsnet

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Posted 16 November 2019 - 11:06 AM

Stelios, thank you very much for your input. My comments and one follow up question inline.

 

Yes, the reason is that the 80mm will have a larger FOV and will be easier to guide (and track better if unguided too). There are pros and cons to both scopes, but there's always a place for a short F/L scope because there are lots of lovely big objects and galaxy groups. I would only consider the ES F/6 Triplet, or better still, the equivalent Astro-Tech with better focuser and rings. The diagonal and EP's are of zero use to astrophotography, I don't even pack them any more.

The only reason I was still considering the the Sky-Watcher was because I like at least having the equipment for visual, although I dont think I will be doing too much. I have read else where, the R&P is much more preferred for AP and the AT80EDT looks to be better built than the Sky-watcher. Do you think my best option right now is to get the AT80EDT and supplement with a diagonal and EP set for visual use in the future?

 

Forget the EQM35, it's a toy. And the answer to your question re scopes is *NO*. There are many $4K scopes that require larger mounts than the EQ6-R. If you want to future proof that way, stretch into an iOptron CEM-60 for the mount. That said, I think the EQ6R-Pro is an excellent mount provided the weight doesn't daunt you (it's HEAVY) and will carry up to 130mm refractor, 6" Newt or 8" Edge HD without any problems (Note: that's for AP, for visual it will carry much more).

As far as scopes in the future, I couldn't see getting anything larger than a 130mm triplet. So I think the EQ6-R will serve me well. 

 

The flip out screen and 5c is worth a nickel, and megapixels are irrelevant for AP. You only need a camera body. Although the T7i is not a bad camera, I would recommend the Nikon D5300 over the Canon because of its very low dark current noise (something you'll appreciate in processing).

I currently own a original Rebel EOS Rebel XT and might just use that to test the waters. I made a simple circuit in the past that allowed me to control the camera via an Arduino so I can dust that off and use it as the intervalometer for now. Once I get my feet wet, I will look into a better camera like the D5300. 

 

For an autoguider look no further than the $79 Orion 50mm scope and ZWO ASI120MM-mini camera. For imaging the planets you will need quite a different scope, unfortunately. Planets call for long focal lengths, and DSO's the opposite. I would get a used Celestron C8 and a barlow to image planets (you don't need to guide it, and you don't need flat field). However, this scope will be poor as a DSO scope for a beginner, and would require the F/6.3 reducer in any case.

Thank you for the advice here. I put the Orion scope and ZWO ASI120MM-mini camera on my list. It looks like the EQ6-R can handle the Celestron C8 even though i wouldn't need it for tracking. 

 

PirateMike, I like your advice with with "There is a lot of little things you will need. Buy a good mount (EQ6-R) and be cheap on all the other stuff, you will need the money."

 

Everyone on this forum has been very helpful and there is wealth of knowledge out there. I can wait to start learning AP hands on. 



#9 nimitz69

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Posted 16 November 2019 - 11:53 AM

You will find very quickly that AP & visual don’t mix all that well WRT required equipment .  Do not skimp on the mount.  Get the EQ6-R pro and you will not have any mount issues while learning this very complex hobby.  CN is filled with posts from new APers who didn’t take this advise and are fighting with their mounts.  You can skimp on a lot of things and still get good images IF you don’t skimp on the mount.

 

EQ6-R pro

ED 80mm refractor (I like the APO triplets)

Nikon D5300 unmodified (lowest noise DSLR out there).

You’ll probably move to a a dedicated Astro camera eventually so I wouldn’t spend the money for a modified camera.  Your goal now is to have good equipment that allows you to learn the proper techniques for AP - not produce magazine cover images.  Upgrading as you learn is almost guaranteed.

ASI 120 mini guide camera & I might look at the ZWO 60mm guide scope.

Don’t forget a Bathinov mask so you can nail focus



#10 Stelios

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Posted 16 November 2019 - 01:45 PM

The only reason I was still considering the the Sky-Watcher was because I like at least having the equipment for visual, although I dont think I will be doing too much. I have read else where, the R&P is much more preferred for AP and the AT80EDT looks to be better built than the Sky-watcher. Do you think my best option right now is to get the AT80EDT and supplement with a diagonal and EP set for visual use in the future?

 

Sure--and don't forget the classifieds, diagonals and EP's of high quality often become available at excellent prices there. Look for people with high ratings and many posts when buying. Unlike things like mounts and cameras which can be problematic purchases second-hand, used EP's and diagonals are, in general, very reliable.



#11 SnowWolf

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Posted 16 November 2019 - 10:57 PM

+1 on the EQ6 mount. I have the equivalent Orion Atlas EQ/G and am not expecting to outgrow it for several years, if ever.

 

If you start with a DLSR, I highly recommend BackyardEOS or BackyardNikon for camera control to begin. 

 

It assists in framing, focus and does all the imaging automation.

 

Even if you don't buy one of these, look for cameras that are compatible with it as other programs will need the same functions.

 

Best $50 I spent on AP.



#12 Peregrinatum

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Posted 17 November 2019 - 10:55 AM

Take your time and do some research and figure out exactly what it is you would like to image (widefield reflection nebula, small PNs, Messier list, etc.) then learn which scope and camera combo will deliver on those objects.

 

Don't think you that you have to start with a small 72mm refractor, some on here with good intentions will beat you over the head and insist you must...  do what you want but learn the obstacles ahead of you before you purchase...

 

It is true that the easiest/shortest path to learning imaging is with a small refractor, but all it really does is hide your mistakes!!




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